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DWI Substance Use Assessment in NC: What You Need to Know

If you’ve received a DWI conviction in North Carolina, you’ll need to take a DWI Substance Use Assessment. The state requires this assessment to determine if you have an alcohol or drug addiction that contributed to your DWI. A licensed or certified substance use counselor gives you this assessment which includes an interview and a structured questionnaire. Let’s take a closer look at what this assessment is and why it’s essential for those with a DWI conviction.

What is a DWI Substance Use Assessment?

A substance use assessment is a questionnaire you take in person with someone at a state-approved DWI treatment and educational facility.

Assessments follow American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) criteria to decide your needs. There are six aspects that the evaluation looks at to determine if you have a substance abuse problem.

From the ASAM website, you can see all six criteria below:

You’ll need to bring your court papers to the assessment and ensure that your assessor possesses a copy of your “Complete Driving History” from the DMV.

When Do I Need a  DWI Substance Use Assessment?

You must get a substance use assessment if you have a conviction for DWI (Driving While Impaired) in North Carolina. You must also complete a DWI Substance Use Assessment to receive a reinstated driver’s license.

To set up your initial assessment, check out the Division of Social Services Approved Providers in North Carolina and choose one. 

Once you finish your assessment, your provider must inform you about any other local providers so that you can make an informed decision about who to see for your education or treatment.  Your assessment provider may not legally charge an extra fee to transfer your case to another in-state provider. However, they may charge if you are out of state or require special services. (1)

North Carolina lists five DWI education or treatment placement levels. Level one is an educational program that we will look at next.

Level 1: Alcohol Drug Education Traffic School (ADETS)

If your assessment shows you do not have a substance abuse problem but are at risk of one, you’ll need to choose a state-certified DWI education provider. The state requires you to start your education and counseling or ADETS within 6 months of your assessment.

If you meet the following eligibility standards, you will need to complete an education program:

  • DWI conviction is a first-time offense
  • You did not refuse the breath test, and at the time of your arrest, your BAC was .14 or less
  • Your assessment and evaluation show you don’t have a substance abuse disorder (as determined by ASAM standards (American Society of Addictions Medicine)

State-approved DWI educational programs in North Carolina include the Prime for Life materials to help you reenvision what your life could be. Prime for Life considers the following aspects of life and the questions that arise:

  • Curiosity: Conversations about what’s important in life and how our choices might protect those values or put them in harm’s way. Prime programs prompt questions like “Could it happen to me?”…
  • Change the Conversation: Like heart disease, addiction is a lifestyle-related health problem impacted by our biology and the choices we make. Prime programs clarify what each of us can and cannot change.
  • Define Risk: Research shows us what’s high-risk and low-risk for most people. Prime programs define these guidelines and explore how to adjust and apply them to our own alcohol and drug choices. 
  • Get Personal: Focusing on our values and research provided in Prime programs, we each get to assess where past choices have placed us and where we want our future choices to take us. It’s hard, and it’s worth it.
  • Strengthen Skills: Encouraged to envision options and positive change, we can start to move forward. Prime programs equip us with an actionable plan and the skills to protect what matters most. (2)

Levels II-V: DWI Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

In some cases, you won’t qualify for an educational program. Instead, you’ll need to start a treatment program for substance abuse disorder if your:

  • Current DWI is not your first DWI conviction
  • You refused the breathalyzer or other chemical testing
  • Your BAC at the time of arrest was more than .14%
  • Your assessment and evaluation show that you have a substance abuse disorder (as determined by ASAM standards (American Society of Addictions Medicine)

According to Absolute Advocacy, depending on what level your assessment determines you need, you’ll enter one of the following treatment programs:

Short-term Outpatient Treatment

Short-term outpatient treatment is a 20-39-hour program completed over the course of 30 days.

Long–term Outpatient Treatment

Long-term treatment is a minimum of 40 hours completed over a minimum of 60 days. Long-term substance abuse treatment is suggested when the client is diagnosed with a substance dependence that goes beyond occasional abuse.

Day Treatment/Intensive Outpatient Treatment

A day program requires at least 90 hours of treatment over the course of 90 days. This level of treatment is recommended when the assessment confirms a diagnosis of substance dependence and provides additional continuing care, urging voluntary participation of the client and significant others.

Inpatient and Residential Treatment Services

When outpatient treatment is not successful or more dedicated treatment is required, the DWI/Substance Abuse provider will refer the client for treatment at a substance abuse facility.

Inpatient residential treatment is a 90-day program for people who demonstrate:

  • Withdrawal risk
  • Need for medical monitoring
  • Emotional and behavioral problems requiring a structured setting
  • High resistance to treatment
  • Inability to abstain
  • Negative and destructive environment

We Can Help

If you’re facing DWI charges, we can help you turn them around before your charges become a conviction. We know how important your driving privileges and freedom are to you. So we work with you to investigate every possible defense for your case. We know the ins and outs of DWI cases in North Carolina and can put our knowledge to work for you. Give us a call today for a free consultation with our skilled DWI defense lawyers!